Never for Glory is the unfinished sequel of The Patriot Oath. With 25 completed chapters, there are about 10 to 15 left to finish the first draft. The first five chapters have already been presented to two of the four critique groups I belong to. One of the two groups has heard all of The Patriot Oath. The second group hasn’t, and I am getting conflicting constructive criticism from the two groups. One group is suggesting a lot of changes, and the other group familiar with the first novel in the series likes what they’re hearing with little need for revisions. It’s confusing.
With this post, I’m inviting readers that have read The Patriot Oath to have a look at Never for Glory’s first chapter and, if willing, to leave comments letting me know what works, what doesn’t. Thank you. If this early preview works, I have another four chapters I’m willing to add to this post later.
After their first HALO jump together in 2002, Josh and Cheéte vanished into the Hindu Kush Mountains, a rugged area covering 160,000 square miles. Their orders had been to search for targets of opportunity, and for weeks they worked alone with little or no support.
Now, in 2019, seventeen years later, they were doing it again. Still, this time their C-130 belonged to The Oath Group, and it was 30,000 feet over Venezuela.
Getting ready for the repeat was like déjà vu all over again. Back then, they were Marine Corps scout snipers serving in Operation Anaconda against al-Qaeda, Taliban insurgents, and members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. That had been their last mission together. Cheéte retired a few months later in 2003.
“I can’t believe my ghillie suit still fits,” Josh said. “It feels the same, hot and heavy. Too bad DARPA wouldn’t let me use that invisible, bulletproof combat suit for this mission. It was perfect last summer for our sortie in Montana.”
Cheéte grunted as he finished squeezing into his old camouflaged ghillie suit. Once he had it on, he looked like an unkempt yeti that needed to lose some weight. “Well, some of us don’t always get what we want. You’ve been out for less than a year so I’m not surprised your suit fits, but I think mine is going to eat me like it’s a starving anaconda.”
They were talking to each other through their helmet’s military-grade communication units.
Josh grinned as he fastened a g-suit around his abdomen and legs, covering most of the camouflaged outfit he wore underneath. Then he manually inflated the g-suit’s five air bladders. The pressure around the muscles would prevent blood from pooling in the feet and legs and push blood pressure up to the heart and brain. The last thing he did was to attach the oxygen mask and tactical goggles.
With a frustrating sigh, huffing, and puffing, Cheéte managed to do the same thing. Once they were on the ground, they’d ditch the gear required for the HALO jump. Their ghillie suits were designed to conceal them from prying eyes.
Like most Marine Corps snipers, they’d made their own unique disguises by hand and, when not in use, stored them in sealed, plastic boxes lined in cotton and kept dry with silica gel packets.
“I’m worried my Christian Crow wife knows about my two other common law wives,” Cheéte said, interrupting Josh’s thoughts.
Josh did a double-take and stared at his old friend. “Whoa! Where the hell did that come from?”
“Well, in case I don’t make it home, I wanted you to know what’s going on in my life. My Christian wife said the only reason for sex is to create children for God. When I said no more kids, she cut me off. There’s no way I’m going without. I refuse to let my demons have an excuse to mess up my nights. What about you?”
“I have nothing to confess to anyone,” Josh replied.
“Ah, … what about Rachel and Mia?”
A green light came on, signaling that it was time to jump. At the same time, the C-130’s ramp started to yawn open, depressurizing the cabin.
Josh stood, ready to go.
“Well?” Cheéte asked.
“I haven’t had sex with anyone since Rachel was shot in San Francisco and is still in the hospital. So, I’m not that desperate.” Finished, he walked off the aft ramp and dropped from sight, falling 30,000 feet toward the ground.
“Sheesh,” Cheéte hissed. “That’s not what I wanted to hear.” Then he was dropping with his belly pointed toward the ground, his chin lifted up, and his arms and legs spread out for stability.
As Josh fell hard and fast, he thought about Rachel and Mia. He’d lied to Cheéte. He was desperate, explaining why he was losing a lot of sleep. But he disagreed with the crap that sexual frustration was normal. So, shrug and take it in stride.
Bull shit! he thought. He couldn’t remember ever being celibate this long before.
The temptation to keep both of his lovers, as Mia had suggested, was almost overwhelming. But, when he thought about going through with it, he heard Dr. Tate’s voice telling him that would be wrong. Then there was the Christian guilt his mother instilled in him as a child with the Seventh Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
He still didn’t understand why his mother started preaching that to him when he was seven. It couldn’t have been because of his crush on Rachel in 2nd grade. He never told anyone about that. There was no way his mother could have known.
To escape the jumble of depressing thoughts stirring up trouble inside his head, he gave himself over to the plunge. Jumping from 30,000 feet felt more like flying than falling. It was windy, loud, and intense. Josh’s senses became wildly alive. That’s why he had an obsession for HALO jumps. The thrill lasted about three times longer than a basic skydiver’s altitude.
With a stable belly-to-earth position, the fastest speed he’d reach was 120 mph. If he wanted to fly faster, he’d shift position so his head was facing the ground and his feet were pointed up. Then he’d drop at 180 mph. Josh had always wondered what it would be like to die like that. Every time he jumped, he’d been tempted to find out.
Checking out of life like that also offered him an easy way to avoid deciding between Rachel and Mia. Because this was a high altitude low open insertion, the main chute was programmed to open automatically at 1,900 feet. If that failed, the reserve chute deployed at 1,000.
The best way to bail out of life would be to use one of his keen-edged combat knives and cut the straps that held the two ‛chutes to his body. He had about a minute left to make that decision.
Was there a better way to die if you were doing something you loved? He started laughing and thought he sounded possessed.
Still, there was Damian Bran, the man they were hunting. He was the one responsible for Rachel living in a hospital, trapped in a coma. Wasn’t that a good enough reason to hang on?
Bran had been a heartless CIA agent for thirty years who left the agency in 2009. He was also known as the Strawman because of his tall, thin stature. Soon after he retired, he’d joined a white supremacist neo-Nazi militia in Montana and ended up working for a ruthless libertarian billionaire, a match made by Mephistopheles.
Josh had been hunting Bran since Rachel had been shot. His efforts to find the former CIA agent had started by putting the man’s wife under surveillance. There had been no calls or texts in or out. Instead, she hadn’t budged from their home in a remote area of Minnesota and didn’t seem to care if she ever saw her husband again.
After The Oath Group’s successful raid in Northwest Montana on that neo-Nazi training camp, Charles Tweet, the billionaire that financed the militia, revealed it was Bran who introduced him to the profitable sex trade. It turned out that the former field agent had started trafficking children years before he left the agency.
Most of the young sex slaves Bran sold to Tweet had ended up working in massage parlors spread across the United States. But some of the most beautiful had suffered a worse fate. If one of them was unfortunate enough to catch the billionaire’s eye, they were doomed.
His last intended victim had been a seventy-six-pound thirteen-year-old Ukrainian girl. The billionaire had slipped a plastic bag over the child’s head while he was raping her. When Cheéte had burst into the underground room where it was taking place, the girl was being suffocated by Tweet, using a method known as erotic asphyxiation.
Later, during his interrogation, Tweet revealed that Damen Bran had introduced him to that risky erotic method. When the billionaire accidentally murdered his first victim, Bran had shrugged it off and said, “Females were created for two purposes. To give men pleasure, and if they survive, to make babies. Besides, when you’re kidnapping children and selling them for a profit, expect to lose a few. Think of it as collateral damage, a business expense.”
Tweet accepted that justification as gospel and had gone on to murder more than a dozen young girls over the years that followed. Now, the billionaire was in court, fighting to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. The judge had not approved bail, but his lawyers were claiming the evidence was inadmissible.
The information that pinpointed Bran’s location in Venezuela had come from Mia Belle-Chanson, one of Josh’s best friends and a former lover. To her fans, she was a singer-songwriter and a documentary producer. What her followers didn’t know was what she did away from a studio or stage. Because she’d been kidnapped in Haiti at the age of fourteen to become a sex slave, she now operated a secret network that rescued abducted children all over the world. Josh had met Mia when he and Cheéte had rescued her and several other girls soon after they’d been snatched.
Venezuela was the perfect country for a brute like Bran. After Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Madura’s rise to power in 2013, sex trafficking and child sex tourism had become common, and it was getting worse.
The intel from Mia’s rescue organization reported that Bran was living on an isolated cattle ranch located in Venezuela’s savanna southwest of the Rio Apure River.
Having second thoughts about dying, Josh checked his altimeter to determine how much time he had left to decide one way or the other.